By Sam Rubenstein

Starting off on a somber note today. R.I.P. to the UNC mascot Jason Ray, who was only 21 years old and eerily passed away hours after the UNC basketball season ended. Also, R.I.P. to the late great Jerry Girard, a Bronx legend. I didn’t have cable growing up, and Jerry was my source for all of my sports highlights, which came at 10:55 P.M., after the weather, in the space before Cheers or Seinfeld came on T.V. There is a Greek diner near where I grew up and they have signed photos of two celebrities. One of them was Ms. Greece, the other was Jerry. This is class.
And speaking of Greeks, God of War II is one of mankind’s greatest feats. I played a little bit more last night, and it makes the first G.O.W. seem corny by comparison. I give this video game the highest endorsement possible. It’s so intense, now I know why game designer David Jaffe had a full scale meltdown and is making kids games. There is a fine line between genius and madness, and if Jaffe’s old blog still existed you could have read when he crossed that line. I’m sorry you can not, because it was amazing.

Alright, let’s do some basketball.

Tayshaun stole the ball!!! And tipped it to Rasheed for the 60 footer at the buzzer.

DETROIT 113 DENVER 109 OT
Rip Hamilton and Chris Webber sat this one out with a matching flu. The Nuggets have the superstar duo of Carmelo and Iverson. So, just as you’d expect the Nuggets most effective player was Nene with 21 and 17, while A.I. and Melo combined to shoot 11 of 33 for only 29 points between them. If you keep looking, Camby had 24 and 13, JR Smith had 21 hitting 5 of 10 threes… it’s almost as if everybody on the Nuggets except for the superstars had a good night. And yet, Denver had this game won. Up by three, 1.5 second left and Camby was throwing the ball inbounds to run out the clock or get the free throw contest going. Rasheed did this. In overtime, he hit a more traditional three to help the Pistons pull out the win. Chauncey Billups was the biggest star of the game with an Iverson-like 34 and 10. The Rasheed shot is obviously what made the win possible, forcing OT. “This one went in, but it isn’t like it won a championship or anything.” You are a humble man Rasheed Wallace, and I appreciate that about you.

BLOWOUTS
Shaq executed the backwards somersault he’s been hiding from us all these years and later announced “I’m known as The Big Baryshnikov.” Miami beat Atlanta, and combined with the Wizards loss puts the Heat at the top of their division making them the three seed. The Hawks hack-a-shaqed as much as they could, sending Baryshnikov to the line 20 times, and he hit 12 of his free throws on his way to a 22 and 11 night in an easy Heat win over Atlanta. Houston took care of Milwaukee 106-87, Phoenix only scored 105 against Memphis which is pretty bizarre as Raja Bell hit 6 of 8 threes on his way to 29 points. The Spurs completely demolished their opponent for the second game in a row, humilating Golden State 126-89.

SOME EASTERN CONFERENCE STUFF
The Raptors might have lost another player for a long period of time when Jorge Garbajosa left on a stretcher. Seriously, it’s dangerous to be a Toronto Raptor. They were also upset by the Celtics behind 23 and 8 from Pierce and 22 and 9 from Jefferson. Memphis is taking a big lead in the lottery sweepstakes.

The Knicks, the Knicks, the Knicks. What am I supposed to do with you guys? Stephon Marbury was playing great when they were winning games. He’s putting up big numbers – 32 in 42 minutes in this game – and the Knicks are back to being the type of losing team that embarrasses its fans. Last night my mom was telling me that we have some cousins from Louisiana coming up to visit next week and they want to go see a Knicks game. I’ll have to explain to them why they don’t want to go when they get here. Dwight Howard had a double double in the win, but really this was just two bad teams. Orlando is the seventh seed in the East right now. To add insult to embarrassment, JJ redick scored 12 points as part of a banner night for the Dukies. TRANSITION!

If you need a punny headline: PUT UP YOUR DUKES

Luol Deng had a career high 38 points in Chicago’s 100-89 win over Portland. By pulling away in the middle of the fourth, as opposed to waiting until the very last second to win it, this was a relatively relaxing game for the Bulls. Apparently Deng made a bet with Chris Duhon about scoring 40, and he lost that bet. Bold to talk about gambling after Gilbert was recently given a Stern warning. They say it was a friendly wager, but the way the NBA is these days, that’s probably illegal too. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 and 8 in the loss.

Carlos Boozer completes the D.A.Y. of Duke dominance with career high 41 and 16 against the Wizards, who are now the 6th seed. Miami would have home court in their first round series. The Wizards led this game by 11, but seem to have a problem keeping their energy up in the second half. Gilbert Arenas did his part scoring 26 of his 32 in the second half, but Boozer took over and the Jazz closed it out with free throws to clinch their first playoff berth since Stockton-Malone. In Stockton and Malone fashion, Boozer had those numbers and Deron Williams dished out 13 assists to go with his 16 points. Jerry Sloan has one way of making it to the playoffs. A bruising PF and pass first PG are to Sloan what having the best player in the world is to Phil Jackson.

UPDATE: YOU WANTED IT YOU GOT IT